Over the last nine months, individuals in safety vests have been hard at working cleaning-up around the community of Penticton, picking up more than 6,000 pounds of garbage and 150 needle sharps.
The ASK Wellness Society’s Peer Ambassadors are program participants who have lived-experience with homelessness and support clean-up efforts in the community.
The social services agency based in the Interior currently operates two supportive housing sites within the city, Burdock House and Fairhaven.
The ambassadors from these supportive housing sites can be hired within ASK’s Peer Ambassador Program, and while not earning a wage, are provided with stipends via gift cards to access food and life necessities.
The program, which began operations in August of 2021, is temporarily funded with the financial support of BC Housing. The City of Penticton also entered into a partnership with ASK Wellness Society in November 2021, providing $5,000 towards the program.
“The City of Penticton is proud to be able to support ASK Wellness Society and the Peer Ambassador program, which provide an opportunity for individuals to learn new skills, connect to the community and help create a cleaner and safer home for all of us,” Mayor John Vassilaki said in a press release.
“This is an innovative project that shows how by working together we can make a difference for those in need.”
Keith Girard, team lead, has witnessed the positive results of the program first-hand.
“I’ve heard from participants about the effects the program has had on their mental health. They’ve been able to budget their money better, they feel good about themselves when out in community, and it also strengthens their trust in others. I’ve directly witnessed participants becoming more open and comfortable sharing their struggles and background as they participate in the program,” Girard said.
One program participant shared they have been particularly impacted by the public’s response.
“I like the reception we get while out in the community, people waving, smiling, and telling us to keep up the good work,” they said.
Forty ambassadors have collectively worked over 1,000 hours and recently supported the city’s bylaw team in cleaning up a homeless encampment, and continue to respond to calls from the community.
The program’s temporary funding will end in August of 2022. To keep the program going, ASK is hoping to identify and receive support from corporate and private donors to assist in funding.
To find out more about the ASK Wellness Society’s program, visit their website here.